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Echoes from the Far Side

James Sheehan: The European Age

18 October 2017
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 
by Richard J. Evans.
Penguin, 848 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 14 198114 7
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... in 1869) and Eurasia (the trans-Siberian was constructed between 1891 and 1904). Everywhere they were built, railways altered the way millions of men and women experienced time and space: the train, JacobBurckhardt wrote in 1840, ‘glides in 33 or 35 minutes to … distant Potsdam … It really flies there like a bird.’ They also greatly enhanced the ability of governments to project power ...

Bidding for favours

Nicholas Penny

19 December 1991
The Altarpiece in Renaissance Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited and translated by Peter Humfrey.
Phaidon, 249 pp., £75, October 1988, 0 7148 2477 1
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The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy 
by Jacob Burckhardt, translated by S.G. Middlemore.
Penguin, 389 pp., £7.99, December 1991, 9780140445343
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The Altarpiece in the Renaissance 
edited by Peter Humfrey and Martin Kemp.
Cambridge, 273 pp., £35, February 1991, 0 521 36061 7
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Painting in Renaissance Siena 
by Keith Christiansen, Laurence Kanter and Carl Stehlke.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 386 pp., $45, July 1989, 0 8109 1473 5
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... and altarpieces must also play a central part in any history of Italian, French or Spanish art of the three centuries which followed. It is therefore surprising that, before the translation of Burckhardt’s essay, Das Altarbild, there was no book in English tracing the origins and early evolution of this art form, and describing its purpose. Burckhardt’s essay, which deals only with Italy, was ...
19 March 1998
The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... to the modern world. The job of testing the assumptions behind this distinction is never-ending, and we must be grateful to scholars who have done it well. Two names spring at once to mind: those of JacobBurckhardt, whose Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, written in 1860, is still required reading on its subject; and Johan Huizinga, who wrote in Burckhardt’s shadow about the same centuries ...

History as a Bunch of Flowers

James Davidson: Jacob Burckhardt

20 August 1998
The Greeks and Greek Civilisation 
by Jacob Burckhardt, edited by Oswyn Murray, translated by Sheila Stern.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £24.99, May 1998, 0 00 255855 6
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... entitled Greek Cultural History (1898-1902) produced a chorus of loud indifference from the likes of Theodor Mommsen, Julius Beloch, Eduard Meyer and Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, alleging that Burckhardt had written a non-existent book – ‘incapable of saying anything either of Greek religion or of the Greek state which deserves a hearing’ – on a non-existent subject: ‘The Greece of ...
2 December 1982
Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the 19th and 20th Centuries 
by Hugh Lloyd-Jones.
Duckworth, 312 pp., £24, May 1982, 0 7156 1500 9
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Classical Survivals: The Classics in the Modern World 
by Hugh Lloyd-Jones.
Duckworth, 184 pp., £18, May 1982, 0 7156 1517 3
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History of Classical Scholarship 
by U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, translated by Alan Harris.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 0976 9
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... the Twelve Tables by Rudolf Schöll’ – and thumbnail evaluations, often sharp, never supported by argument or example, and not always reasonable. Two of Wilamowitz’s chief butts, Nietzsche and JacobBurckhardt, are not even mentioned, though his early assaults on them were genuine scandals and were never retracted. What I have concentrated on is the far more important matter, as I indicated at ...
28 April 1994
The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance 
by John Hale.
HarperCollins, 648 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 00 215339 4
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... the networks of scholarly correspondence and patterns of artisanal travel that carried new texts and images across what remained a dangerous and divided countryside. Like his most admired forerunner, JacobBurckhardt, Hale insists that the Renaissance cannot be reduced to the Classical revival that nourished it; but he supports this thesis with a range of evidence that goes against Burckhardt’s ...

Whig History

Sheldon Rothblatt

21 January 1982
A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past 
by J.W. Burrow.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 521 24079 4
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... by its attitudes to and uses of its past.’ The task of the historian is to understand the past in its own terms and even, where possible, to enjoy it. The portraits in hall – the Swiss Victorian JacobBurckhardt, Leopold Ranke, the German father of scientific history – look down approvingly. Magnificently expressed, we have Burrow’s admonition that ‘we can avoid ... writing as though we told ...


J.P. Stern

30 August 1990
Unmodern Observations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown and William Arrowsmith.
Yale, 402 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 300 04311 2
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The Importance of Nietzsche 
by Erich Heller.
Chicago, 200 pp., £23.95, February 1989, 0 226 32637 3
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... Perhaps, after all, Nietzsche’s sallies should be read with a little more detachment than the scholars who have contributed to this volume could muster – with the sort of irony that speaks from JacobBurckhardt’s letter of February 1874: ‘In thanking you very warmly, and having merely rushed through this immensely significant essay, I can only say a word or two in reply ... Above all, my ...
20 March 1980
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... introduced by Hiram Hayden was no more than a tiny wave, a ripple soon to vanish from the surface of historical debate. As for the concept of the Renaissance itself, to which, as we know, JacobBurckhardt gave such lustre, here is Hexter in 1951 wondering whether it would survive much longer the irreverent scepticism he himself professed for it. Well, yes, it has survived, unhappily for Hexter, and ...
5 January 1989
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... aspect of the period was the expression of a single zeitgeist. The most common reaction to the loss of faith in the zeitgeist has been to reject the kind of portrait of an age painted so vividly by JacobBurckhardt and Johan Huizinga and to retreat into monographs on limited topics. An exciting feature of Greenblatt’s book, made most explicit in his introductory essay, is that he offers a way of ...


Adrienne Mayor: Aristotle and Science

1 July 2015
The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
Bloomsbury, 501 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4088 3620 0
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... consider Athens’s golden age of democratic prosperity and political egalitarianism has gathered two centuries’ worth of dust. Inexplicably, Leroi’s sole source is an 1872 history of Greece by JacobBurckhardt, a fierce Swiss contrarian who detested Athenian democracy and glorified aristocracies (and Sparta). Leroi also misses the opportunity to illuminate a lost chapter in the history of ...

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

9 February 2020
... agriculture and automotive industries disappear so long as there was a net increase in national wealth. This is not, I think, what voters in Sunderland and Cornwall voted for. Enthusiasts like Jacob Rees-Mogg compare Brexit to the repeal of the Corn Laws. They tend not to dwell on the terrible agricultural depression that set in after the American railways and steamships started bringing corn ...


Keith Thomas: Working Methods

10 June 2010
... the excerpted passages could be repeatedly rearranged to fit different conceptual schemes. In his book on The Footnote, Anthony Grafton quotes a letter by the great Swiss historian of the Renaissance JacobBurckhardt, reporting that he had just cut up his notes on Vasari’s Lives into 700 little slips and rearranged them to be glued into a book, organised by topic. From this practice of making notes ...

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